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About to Graduate

  1. Nov 14, 2007 #1
    About to Graduate....

    Hello all. I'm hoping to get some advice here, so I'll give a brief description of my situation. I should be graduating with a B.S. in General Physics by May, and have a 4.0 GPA as of now. I always planned on going straight to grad school and getting a Masters, but since I missed the GRE test, and the next one isn't offered until April, I started to consider taking a year off. At first the idea was scary, but I'm starting to think it's the smarter choice. Ideally, I'll gain some perspective, experience, and knowledge of what I like and don't like in the context of work. I want to work in industry and solve real problems with the tools physics has given me, and I'd like to think I'm pretty good at it. My plan, as of now, is to move to Chicago (mainly because I'm in love with that city) and try and find a job/research-internship at Argonne or somewhere for a year that actually has me use my brain. My biggest fear is getting a degree, and then getting a mindless job. So the question is, what are some things I can do now to help my desirability as an employee? I've done some research on STEM images (making computer models and and using mean-free path equations to estimate specimen thickness) and written a brief analysis on the effects of specimen drift on STEMs, and at least one of those will be publishable by the time it's polished. I'm also getting on another project that involves some cool stuff with sound analysis and have taught a few intro physics lab sections. My adviser suggested that I try and go to conferences, and maybe even give talks, to try and get connections with people that might lead to jobs. I agree that personal interaction would help me a lot, as opposed to just a name on an application...a recommendation within the company/lab can never hurt. Are there any other pieces of advice? I would like to work for a guitar electronics company, but I probably didn't get enough training for that in physics. Thanks for letting me blab about myself...

  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 16, 2007 #2
    No thoughts?
  4. Nov 16, 2007 #3


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    Don't worry about the dead end job - keep picking interesting things to work on.
    A physics degree isn't going to limit you. But don't stick to obvious physics things like particle physics - there are a lot of interesting problems out there in industry.
    In most areas of industry a PhD doesn't necessarily help you career.

    Exceptions are:
    Very speciliased jobs were it exactly matches your PhD project and you can step straight in to the work. Ironically these are the most dead end jobs because the company has a strong disincentive to let you do anything outside that narrow area.

    Consultancies that hire PhDs because it looks good on business cards and they can bill more for you.

    Glass ceiling where everybody has a degree and management like an easy way of picking who to promote - but an MBA a few years down the line might be as good.

    Doing a PhD to improve your job prospects is about as sensible as buying beer to make money on recyling the cans. There are fringe benefts but it's not worth doing for the money!
  5. Nov 16, 2007 #4
    So you're saying that sometimes just ending up with a Master's in physics is "better" than going all the way for a Ph.D.?

    Is it possible to eventually lead some sort of project (assuming I work my way up, I know that takes time even with a Ph.D.) with just a Master's?
  6. Nov 16, 2007 #5


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    In career terms 3-8 years of salary and industrial experience is going to put you financially and promotionally above a new PhD (exceptions as above)

    You are probably MORE likely to be a project lead without a PhD in industry - PhDs often get shunted into very narrowly defined technical roles. Obviously this depends on you and the company - there are no rules.
    It isn't like an academic career where a PhD is (almost) required to get to the next level.
    Even then, my ugrad head of dept never got a PhD - he was too busy inventing a new field of nuclear physics to get round to writing it up (although that was presumably 40years ago, you might not get away with that today) !
  7. Nov 16, 2007 #6
    That's welcome news, then. I want to have an important job (i.e. not just a lab monkey) later in life (I know it won't come right off the bat), but didn't like the idea of spending 4+ more years in college than for a Master's and of course specializing in a field when my interests change like every hour or so.
  8. Nov 16, 2007 #7


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    Learn something about, and get an interest in, the business side!
    You don't have to turn into a suit or salesman, but managers have to deliver stuff and make money.

    These are all excellent and easy intro to project and team management books.
  9. Nov 16, 2007 #8
    You'll never find me wearing a suit and tie. I got hair down to my shoulders and I wear jeans. One of the reasons I like the science/engineering side of life. :)

    EDIT: Actually, it's lower than my shoulders, but you get my point.
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2007
  10. Nov 16, 2007 #9


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    Then work for a software startup!

    There are jobs where;
    you only deal with technical problems = dead end lab monkey.
    you only deal with business problems = management / suit
    you deal with customer's problems = best of both worlds.

    You are standing in front of a customer on some amazing 'extreme engineering / discovery channel' type project. They have a problem that is costing them more money than you will ever see in your life and you have the skills to solve it for them!
    It beats sitting in a lab trying to measure some constant to one more decimal place.

    Most of the time in front of customers I'm wearing either overalls+hard hat or a survival suit!
    But occasionally you have to put on the chinos and clean shirt to give a presentation.
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2007
  11. Nov 16, 2007 #10
    You can't be serious. I've had enough food thrown at me at McDonald's to last me a lifetime.
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